by Robin Simpson.
De Grey Rooms (Ballroom) St Leonard’s Place YO1 7HD To 31 December 2013.
Runs 55min No interval.
TICKETS: 01904 623568.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 18 December.
Cinderella’s at the Ballroom and the audience is having a ball.
York’s joint is jumpin’ once again as Berwick Kaler’s panto takes the stage. So it’s good to have a gentler piece of storytelling a few yards along St Leonards place. Though there’s a certain irony in decking the city’s elegant Assembly Ballroom with clothes-lines of washing to emphasise Cinders’ bleak existence, an elegant Georgian fireplace usefully contributes to the story’s setting.
Three Yorkshire companies contribute to Kyle Davies’ production: the Theatre Royal,Telling Tales (unsurprisingly, a storytelling combo) and TongueTied Theatre (reasonably enough, dealers in images rather than words).
Their telling of Cinderella’s story for 3-8s combines action, masks and puppets in a fluid performance style. Robin Simpson’s masked Stepmother makes no attempt to hide his beard – or to make-out Stepmum’s a bearded lady. Susanna Meese plays both Cinderella and one of her horrid step-sisters (and adds, from behind the washing-line, a poignant and crystal-sounding harp).
Masks consistently mean malice, the false faces of the false family. Puppets, by contrast, are benevolent; the shadow puppets making their way to the rowan tree over the grave of Cinders’ real mum, or the carved puppets of Cinderella and the Prince. He’s a mite grandiloquent, but her innocent expression, coming close and looking trusting when she meets kindness, suggests trust and resilience.
The story remains the focus, and simplicity the style for telling it. Language is direct and economical, always propelling matters forward, by an interplay of the visual and verbal (only briefly, towards the centre, do words tend to overrule images). And the respect owed Cinderella is evident in the respect shown the young audiences. They are trusted to interpret simple props, just as their imaginations create stories from simple objects.
There is no shying from the greedy sisters hacking at their feet in hope of gain, but it comes from the logic of the situation and characters, while blood symbolised by red tape streaming from a damaged foot is representative rather than graphic.
And, importantly, having been asked for suggestions to help events along, every child find their idea is received with consideration and respect in a well-judged and stimulating production.
Cast: Susanna Meese, Robin Simpson, Lizzie Wiggs.
Director: Kyle Davies.
Designer/Puppets: Lydia Denno.
Masks: TongueTied Theatre.
Shadow Puppetry: Telling Tales.